The Australian state of Queensland approved Thursday one of the world’s largest coal mines, dismissing the United Nations and scientists concerns over damaging effects of an associated port to the Great Barrier Reef.
The US$15bn (A$16.5bn) Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project, in the untapped Galilee Basin, is being developed by Adani Group, an Indian conglomerate with interests spanning mining, energy and logistics.
Designed to eventually produce 60 million tonnes of thermal coal a year, the mine has been the focus of opposition by green groups fighting new coal mines and the rail and ports needed to ship the coal.
Although subject to the Federal Government final approval, the coal mine —potentially Australia’s largest— is expected to generate billions of dollars in revenue to a state that is struggling to cut its US$75 billion debt pile.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney told ABC Net the project has the potential to create up to 2,500 construction and 3,900 operational jobs.
"The construction of the mine and rail components is expected to generate in excess of $500 million annually in direct and indirect benefits to Queensland's economy," he was quoted as saying.
“We welcome the decision of the Queensland Government and this allows us to move to the next stage of the project, ensuring that local and regional communities continue to be involved in the development of our projects and share the economic benefits.” Adani Group Chairman, Gautam Adani said in a statement.
The port Adani plans to use, Abbot Point, has been the centre of heated debate, as conservationists opposed a proposed expansion on the ground the project would dredge up 3 million cubic metres of sand and then dump it near the Great Barrier Reef.
Opposition to the port expansion and the proposed Galilee basin coal mines has grown in recent weeks. First UNESCO warned it might place the Great Barrier Reef on its endangered list as a result of the port expansion. And last week US ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s launched a Save the Reef campaign that prompted authorities to call a boycott from Australian consumers, as they claim it is “propaganda” that has damaged the reputation of the reef, jeopardizing jobs and tourism dollars.